September 4, 2016

Hatteras and Ocracoke are cleaning up, opening up


storm surge from Tropical Storm Hermine and began opening up businesses for visitors who seem to be enjoying themselves, despite the stormy start to the last holiday weekend of summer.

Ferries started running again to and from Ocracoke this morning and visitors, who had been under a mandatory evacuation order since late Friday, began returning.  There were no evacuations on Hatteras, but many businesses in the southern villages -- from Avon to Hatteras -- were shut down on Saturday by soundside flooding from Hermine.

Though most of the flooding had subsided by last evening, water levels in the Pamlico Sound on southern Hatteras remained high today.

In addition, large swells from distant now Post-Tropical Storm Hermine were battering the beaches along the Outer Banks, especially north of Cape Hatteras.

The National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City has issued a coastal flood advisory and a high surf advisory for the Outer Banks north of Cape Hatteras until 8 p.m. on Monday.

In addition, a beach hazard statement is in effect for a high threat of rip currents along all area beaches, and the threat could linger into mid-week as Hermine meanders slowly around in the Atlantic many hundreds of miles to our northeast.

The storm still had winds of 70 mph and it is still expected to strengthen to a hurricane at some point, though it is posing less of a threat to all of the northeast and eastern North Carolina.

"At this time, it appears continuing issues will be limited to mostly minor additional erosion, isolated overwash, rough surf, and rip currents for the Outer Banks, and some limited minor river flooding at a few spots inland," said Richard Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS office.  

The Weather Service said that the latest guidance indicates water level rises of around 2 feet above normal can be expected for the oceanside of Dare County north of Cape Hatteras during high tides cycles through Monday evening. High tide is about 10:30 this evening and 11 a.m. on Monday morning.

Ocean overwash is possible in the usual vulnerable locations on Highway 12.  There was some slight overwash in north Buxton at this morning’s  high tide.

Breaking waves in the surf zone north of Cape Hatteras are expected to be 7 to 10 feet today and 6 to 9 feet Monday.

Rip currents are more prevalent either side of low tide, which was around 4 p.m. today and will be around 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday.

The National Park Service began to open up its ramps and visitor services today.

"Overall, we came out of this very well," said Outer Banks Group Superintendent David Hallac. "We were pleased to get our campgrounds and visitor services reopened so quickly.

Campgrounds are open, as are all visitor centers and ORV permit offices in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses are both open again for climbing.

Lifeguards are back on duty at Coquina Beach, Buxton, and the Ocracoke Day Use Area and will remain so through Labor Day. However, seashore officials warn that long-period swells from Hermine are creating dangerous rip currents and shore break.

"Visitors should use extreme caution when near the surf," they said.

Hatteras Island District Ranger Joe Darling said this afternoon that all ORV ramps from Ramp 38 south to 55 are open on Hatteras Island. Other ramps will be open as natural resources staff members have time to check turtle nests on the beaches.

Hallac said that staff members are still checking the condition of the more than 320 turtle nests -- another record number -- on the seashore, many of which had not hatched before the storm.

Darling noted that access to Cape Point was almost "non-existent due to waves and will likely be inaccessible by vehicle except for low tide."

"Please be aware of tidal changes and ensure you have ample time to leave the beaches when tides change," he added.

On southern Hatteras island, many residents had to forego holiday weekend cook-outs to clean up the debris from the storm flooding -- mostly in yards, but some homes were flooded, especially in Hatteras village, where the surge of an estimated 4 to 5 feet was higher than forecast or expected.

Some residents -- and visitors -- lost vehicles -- even some who thought they had moved their vehicles to high enough ground.

Soundside flooding was also high in Frisco, though not as high as Hatteras and Buxton and Avon also saw some tide, though more briefly.  The tri-villages apparently escaped the serious soundside flooding this time around.

Dare County will pick up trash as scheduled on Monday, the Labor Day holiday, but has not announced yet if and when there will be a storm debris pickup.

Bandy advises that residents and visitors on the Outer Banks should continue to monitor the threat of additional large swells and overwash on the Outer Banks. 

"Should Post-Tropical Cyclone Hermine strengthen enough and sit over just the right spot," he said, "impacts on the Outer Banks in the days ahead could be a bit more significant.  Monitor (Weather Service) coastal flooding products for more information regarding that."

You can keep up with the latest forecast at the local Weather Service website,

Hermine moves offshore, leaves behind high winds, soundside flooding....WITH SLIDE SHOW

Hermine forecast to intensify offshore, increasing surge threat
UPDATE:  Tropical storm warning posted for entire N.C. coast
Track of Hermine shifts back toward Outer Banks
Second tropical system in a week forecast for Hatteras, Ocracoke

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